Thursday, January 24, 2008


It was a big shock on the breakfast shows yesterday morning (which I never watch but caught by accident) about the early death of actor Heath Ledger.

As Australians, we have a special place in our hearts (and lots of special places in our gossip magazines) for the Kangaroo contingent in Hollywood, and thus feel we really "know" our expats.

I did see him in "The Patriot" and was suitably impressed. All of his other movies (yes, even "Brokenback Mountain") unfortunately form part of the extensive list of movies that I have not seen. I am impressed he played in "Candy". This is one of my all-time favourite books - a very eye-opening and beautiful (if that is possible) portrayal of the very dark subject of heroin addiction.

Why is it that I seem to know way more about his personal life than his body of work? Truly it is a shame, especially as I never buy those rags and only see them at the houses of friends and family, and in waiting rooms. I find that really sad, because how much do we know of people through such journals?

I am not here to do the indepth "was he depressed, was it accidental, did he have (insert condition here)" analysis. No doubt some autopsy will eventually fill us in on his death, but only speculation and innuendo will fill in the moments before. What is known is he is dead and that is a pretty final statement.

I do know that he had a daughter, Matilda. Every Australian will give a wry smile at her name - it also holds a place in our lore.

I know nothing of Michelle Williams - but somehow I feel I know the place she is now. I assume their daughter was conceived and born of love and future plans. I know that feeling.

Somehow, for whatever reason, the relationship had not gone as planned and they had separated. I can tick that box also.

Now, he has died and she is the sole parent of a two year old girl - Michelle, unfortunately I so know where you are at.

You are the only memory holder of the relationship that formed her. You are the only one who can feel that fear, love, joy, pain as your daughter goes forth through the milestones of life. You are going to be going through grief but having to hold it together because you have a child that needs you. You may be second-guessing every step along the way and wondering if things could somehow have been different there - or there - or there - whether your daughter would still have her father - and what sort of father he may have been.

I don't have any advice - well, not in the "this is the perfect way to handle this" because I didn't always find my way the best way. That is the life of being the only parent, unfortunately. You make some mistakes, you live with it and move on. Sometimes you make the right decisions, but time moves too quickly to bask in the brief successes.

You can only do what you can to make your child understand the love that created her, the love that will still sustain her, and the fact that if you hold someone and their memories in your heart they still live in a way. You can only answer so many questions about the realities of death and try and make them fit the context of a 2 year old child - then a 3 year old child, then 4 and so forth.

In a way (and this is extremely callous but based on my experience and seeing the experience of other broken families) it is easier. You don't have the courtroom dramas, the dealing with ex and extended new families. You can create the perfect father out of the good memories that you have - and you can bury the not so nice things with him. You don't have the nitpicking over the way to parent, the way to educate, the way to act. You don't have the anxiety over whether he is pining for you or plotting ways of using your child to get back at you. You don't have the shadow of possibility that you may have worked things out.

I know that it is hard to be the person in your role - and I hope that along the way you find some of the things that I have found. I hope that you have a wonderful family who will support you through those tumultuous moments when the grief is overwhelming. I hope that you have fantastic friends who will include you and give you reprieve from being alone and fragile. I hope that the delights that your daughter shows you along the way will lift you up and give you the joy of what you have created. I hope that you can find peace in being a strong solo parent and great mother to your child. I hope that you may find the bonus of someone you can love and trust and that loves you and your child.

But most of all - I hope that you can get through all of this.

By the way - after starting this post, I noticed a post on a new blog I have found - asking "What’s your advice for Heath Ledger’s ex?".

I actually think the hardest thing that she will have to deal with is something that very few of us have to face (thank goodness) and that is the relentless scrutiny by the media. It is hard enough to go through this without having the neighbours looking in.


Melody said...

jeanie, this post made me cry big fat tears! *sob* Your words ring true and I wish Michelle could read your post.

Anonymous said...

I commented on Rachel Sarah's site (single mom seeking) not knowing that your site existed or that you had posted about the very same topic.

I have to say that your post touched me and as a single mom, rang true on so many points. My ex isn't decesased, but as I mentioned, sometimes I feel that it would be easier to explain his absence to our daughter if he was. Instead, I am left to deal with his "flakiness," his unreliability, his irresponsibility, and the issues which made him incapable of being a good husband and father. Any situation like this is/will be hard to explain to a young child, whenever that time comes. (My daughter is 4 now.)

So while I don't "envy" Michelle in her new role, I can certainly empathize with much of what she must be feeling.

♥.Trish.♥ Drumboys said...

very well written post ... another perspective and one the media won't give much thought too.

mommamia said...

Jeanie, I also cried when I read this becaue the bottom line is no matter what happened he left a child behind. A child who now needs her Mom more than ever. I wish Michelle Williams could read what you wrote.

I hope she has friends and family that will help her and baby get through this time.

The Brave said...

That was extremely thoughtful, compassionate and personal, Jeanie. Absolutely, it is a different and important angle from the usual regurgitated and over played stuff we are likely to read over the coming weeks. I too wish that Michelle Williams could read this. I feel that she would appreciate your words.

Julie Pippert said...

J, this is probably one of the loveliest commentaries/tributes on this tragedy. How moving, the understanding and advice you offer.

Anonymous said...

Jeanie, I'm so glad that you gave me the heads-up about your post. Wow, thank you for this.
Like the other mamas here, I hope that somehow Michelle gets the chance to read this... and when it's time, that Matilda gets to read your words, too.

I'm going to link back to your post now.

jeanie said...

Thank you every one for your comments on this post.